Babies can and should play too! Play and pedagogy in early childhood is just as important for babies as it is for a toddler or preschooler. Play can also help parents to break up the days, which can seem long in those sleep deprived early weeks. All the bits that I use in these activities can be bought via my Amazon shop.
Baby Play is largely sensory based, must be taste safe and supervised at all times!
Sensory bottles and sequinned fabric are mesmerising for babies, watching the light reflect off them is highly stimulating. Take a clean and empty plastic bottle, fill it with baby oil if you have some, if not water and a good glug of glycerine, and add glitter, coloured buttons or pompoms. The oil or glycerine helps to slow the movement of the contents, you can of course use water but the filling will settle quickly at the bottom of the bottle. Give the bottle to baby to shake and hold, or if they are newborn shake the bottle up and place it where baby can watch.
Water beads are a great sensory base for an age, but whilst non-toxic, must be contained for babies in the mouthing stage. Adding them to a ziplock bag creates a lovely pat mat. Pop the pat mat in front of baby to extend Tummy Time, or pop onto their highchair tray to keep them happy whilst you make lunch/grab a few moments to enjoy a hot cup of tea!
Adding pompoms inside a whisk for baby to remove is a good work out for hand and finger muscles for older babies. This activity also promotes problem solving and coordination, and can be done in reverse to extend play (keep baby busy for longer), can baby PUSH the pompoms back inside? Pompoms are a choking hazard and must only be used under close supervision.
Treasure baskets left out for baby to explore can provide much entertainment. Change the contents weekly to keep interest. In the pictured basket I have included: a shower cap, froggy flannel, rubber duck, clean sponge, toothbrush, a bar of soap still in its packet, a squirty bath toy and a tube of bubbles to blow and recreate the sensory experience of bath time. This is also a great way to desensitise children who are currently having water aversion.
Posting is a favourite form of schematic play for babies. Use an old box, or tissue box as seen here, and encourage baby to post items into the hole, or to pull them free. Pictured are some sensory scarves.
Baby-proof painting - Using a permanent pen, draw a picture on some card and add it, with a squirt of paint, to a ziplock bag and let baby squish the bag to move the paint. It's another great way to build those hand and finger muscles, and if done on the floor as part of Tummy Time, it will help to build shoulder and arm muscles too!
I-Spy bottles - These are super simple and quick to make, fill a bottle with out of date rice or lentils and add a few extra small pieces, here we have some buttons and small jingle bells. The idea is that as baby moves the bottle around they will discover the hidden treasures. the sound of the rice in the bottle and in this case the little bells adds another lovely sensory element.